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New Windsor Cantonement

Frequently overlooked in the great sweep of history as being the central battleground of the American Revolution, the Hudson Valley determined the success or failure of the Colonial States in their quest for independence from Great Britain. Strategically, the Hudson River was the only navigable river into the interior of the continent and its location empowered whoever controlled it to either allow or prevent commerce between the northern Colonies and those in the south. Should the British have been able to gain control of the Hudson, the outcome of the war would surely have been different.

And the British spent great time, effort and resources attempting to gain control of the mighty Hudson River just so they could control the commercial trade routes between north and south. Their first act in the war was to take Manhattan and drive General Washington and his continental troups north chasing them up to White Plains and forcing them across the river. In a massive effort, they then descended south from Canada under the command of Gen. Burguoyne, down through Lake Champlain, down the Hudson battling the colonists at every turn. Finally at Saratoga, Burguoyne lost his momentum and was defeated and captured, bringing the battle over the northern Hudson to a close.

Throughout the war, various fortifications and sites in Orange County were pivotal in the efforts of Washington and his troops to stay the British and prevent them from coming up into the Hudson Valley. Chief among these locations was West Point, site of the major fortifications along the Hudson and commanded by Benedict Arnold. Washington himself spent more time in the Hudson Valley and Orange County than any other location in the colonies during the war years. And as the war drew to a close, it was Orange County that Washington chose as his last staging ground for his troops and his entorage to insure the British didn't attempt a run up the Hudson before the final treaties could be signed.

Orange County is rich in Revolutionary sites ranging from the mundane of camp life for enlisted men right up Washington's final residence prior to his resigning from the Continental Army. As individual places, they do not overwhelm the visitor with their grandeur or the role they played in the struggle for independence. Collectively, they should overwhelm the visitor in significance to their daily lives and how different America would be today were it not for the foresight, diligence and sacrifice made to hold and defend these places in Orange County.

New Windsor Cantonement

The troops of Washington's armies were encamped for miles along what is now known as Route 300. Their huts and tents streatched for a great distance both north and south of the road as well as for about three miles along the road. Central to this encampment was the building known as "The Temple", an accurate reconstruction now on the exact site of its original construction at the New Windsor Cantonement.

Washington was pleased that the army was better housed, fed, and clothed than ever before in the long war, but life for the officers and troops at the Cantonment remained hard. It was at the New Windsor Cantonment that the cease fire orders were issued by Washington ending the eight-year War of Independence on April 19, 1783. The final success, however, was the gradual, orderly disbandment of the army at the Cantonment, and the peaceful march of its still largely unpaid officers and men back to their homes or new pursuits.

Today, staff in reproduction period dress and uniforms demonstrate musket drills, blacksmithing, military medicine and camplife activities. Guests are also welcome to view the exhibits at the Visitor Center and the reconstructed Temple Building, which served as a chapel for the soldiers. Soon, construction will begin on the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, which will be located at New Windsor Cantonment.

New Windsor Cantonement, a New York State Park, is excellently maintained and totally handicapped accessible. When you enter the site you are directed to a Visitor Center where a small museum shows you the events that swirled around the area at the end of the war. From here you take a self-guided tour through the grounds with a good map and explainatory brochure. As you walk the grounds costumed guides are available to answer questions and give demonstrations on various aspects of being an enlisted man in the army. Musket demonstrations are held on a regular basis and are thoroughly enjoyed by the kids as they are freighteningly loud and fill the air with acrid smoke and bits of flying paper wadding.

There are several small huts on the grounds that evidence proves were original to the site during the encampment. You are invited into The Temple to listen to speeches and lectures, into the huts to see how the armies lived, and to ask questions of the costumed guides. Demonstrations of all types are held, frequently on summer and fall weekends, making a visit to the New Windsor Cantonement a real family fun outing.

Visiting the New Windsor Cantonment

Mid-April thru Oct., Wed.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m, Sun. 1-5 p.m. Also open Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Veterans Day.

$4.00 adults, $3.00 NYS Senior Citizens, $1.00 children 5-12, children under 5 admitted free.

Specifics on visiting the New Windsor Cantonement were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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